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Tag Archive: Star Wars The Force Awakens


borg Hall of Fame 2018

It’s been another long year of great entertainment.  Before we wrap our coverage of 2018, it’s time for the sixth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have plenty of honorees from 2018 films and television, plus many from past years, and a peek at some from the future – 40 in all.  You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

Some reminders about criteria.  Borgs have technology integrated with biology.  Wearing a technology-powered suit alone doesn’t qualify a new member.  Tony Stark aka Iron Man was an inaugural honoree because the Arc Reactor kept him alive.  The new Spider-Man suit worn by Tom Holland is similar to Tony’s, but as far as we can tell it’s not integrated with Peter Parker’s biology.  Similarly Peni Parker, seen outside her high-tech SP//dr suit in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Black Manta from Aquaman (and decades of comics before), seem to be merely wearing tech suits.  We’d love a reason for a Mandalorian to make the cut, like Boba Fett, or Jango Fett, since nobody has more intriguing armor.  Maybe Jon Favreau’s new television series will give us something new to ponder next year.

Also, if the creators tell us the characters are merely robots, automatons, or androids, we take their word for it.  Westworld continues to define its own characters as androids (like Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Lt. Commander Data throughout the TV series), and not cyborgs (going back to Michael Crichton’s original story), so we continue this year to hold off on their admittance unless something changes, like the incorporation of living biological (blood, cells, etc.) materials.  Are we closing in on admitting individuals solely based on a breathing apparatus that may allow them to breathe to in non-native atmospheres?  Only if integrated (surgically).  Darth Vader has more borg parts than his breathing filter.  We assume new honoree Saw Gerrera does as well.  With more biological enhancements we’d allow Tusken Raiders, Moloch, and Two Tubes from the Star Wars universe, and Mordock the Benzite from Star Trek, but wouldn’t that also mean anyone in a deep sea suit or space suit is a cyborg?  Again, integration is key.  Ready Player One has humans interacting with a cyber-world with virtual reality goggles and other equipment, but like the Programs (as opposed to the Users) in the movie Tron, this doesn’t qualify as borg either, but we’re making an exception this year for the in-world Aech, who is a cyborg orc character, and two Tron universe characters.

Already admitted in 2017 were advance honorees that didn’t actually make it to the screen until 2018.  This included Josh Brolin’s new take on Cable in Deadpool 2 and Simone Missick’s Misty Knight after her acquisition of a borg arm in Marvel’s Luke Cage.  New versions of Robotman and Cyborg are coming in 2019 in the Doom Patrol series, but they are already members of the revered Hall of Fame.  Above are the new looks for these two earlier honorees.

So who’s in for 2018?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When Lando Calrissian showed up on the doorstep of Han Solo and Leia with a toddler Ben in tow, Han knew the outcome couldn’t be anything good.  In Daniel José Older‘s novel Star Wars: Last Shot–A Han and Lando Novel, it’s Lando that causes angst for Han, but it also gets him away from a home life where it’s just not happening for the former smuggler and decorated General of the Rebellion.  Someone has set off some assassin droids and if your name was ever on the title for the Millennium Falcon, you’ve been marked.  The mastermind behind the droids is a character inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, a medical student plucked from his good life and plunged into a maddening existence where he begins to merge men with machines.  For Fyzen Gor, droids are the more advanced form and he will stop at nothing until the galaxy knows it.  Enter Han, Chewie, Lando, and Ugnaught, an Ewok tech guru or “slicer,” an attractive Twi-lek who Lando has his eyes on, and a young hotshot pilot, and you have a Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven story plucked from the pages of classic Marvel Comics.

But that’s the present, or at least the present time as it existed a few years after the events of Return of the Jedi, where only part of the story takes place.  Both partners Han and Chewie, and Lando and companion droid L3-37 have each encountered Fyzen Gor and his enigmatic Phylanx device before–once before Lando loses the Falcon to Han during Solo: A Star Wars Story, and once afterward.  Star Wars: Last Shot presents three parallel stories all culminating with the present search and confrontation with Gor to learn the secret of the device.  L3-37’s theme of droid rights is a significant element in this tale, and further expands L3’s influence on the future beyond being merged with the Falcon’s computer.  Despite several key cyborgs in the Star Wars galaxy (not the least of which being Luke and Darth Vader), this novel is Star Wars taking on cyborg themes not usually found in the franchise outside the early comics, themes you’d find wrestled with previously in other sci-fi properties.

The prequels live on.  Adding to the surprise presence of Darth Maul in Solo: A Star Wars Story, writer Older resurrects many bits and pieces from the Star Wars prequels, including a Gungun who makes clear that Jar Jar Binks was not emblematic of the alien race.  We also encounter many names, aliens, and places from past stories, like aliens reflecting the likes of Bossk, Hammerhead, Ewoks, Ugnaughts, and Cloud City from the original trilogy.

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Last weekend Julien’s Auctions sold an original Star Wars prop at a price that puts it among the highest prices ever for the public sale of a Star Wars movie prop, and it’s not going to be the last time you see it, like you’d find with most auction sales.  We have covered previous auctions here at borg.com for higher selling items (like the original Robby the Robot last November that sold for $5.375 million), and this latest prop didn’t catch up with the pieced together R2-D2 that sold at Profiles in History’s auction last June for $2.76 million, but it’s still impressive.  This time it was a Han Solo non-firing prop blaster from Return of the Jedi that resulted in the auction’s big win.  It sold at $550,000, which included the auction house “kicker” or buyer’s premium of a hefty $100,000.  The winning bidder?  Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which added this to their Star Wars collection that already included a Luke Skywalker lightsaber said to have been used in The Empire Strikes Back, purchased last year at auction for $450,000.  With most auction lots landing in private hands never to see daylight again, this is a rare instance where fans may get a chance to see this on display in person.

No other franchise touches Star Wars when it comes to auction prices paid for screen-used memorabilia, and the cream of the crop has been props associated with named characters.  Pieces of Star Wars costumes, some associated with the bankrupt Planet Hollywood chain, have sold at auction over the years, mostly incomplete, including a Chewbacca mask (for $120,000 in 2007 at Profiles in History), Darth Vader components (like a mask, for $115,000 plus premium, at Profiles in History in 2003), C-3PO parts (like his head, for $120,000 in a 2008 profiles in history auction), multiple Imperial troopers, Princess Leia’s slave outfit from Return of the Jedi (for $96,000 at Profiles in History in 2015), and the aforementioned R2-D2.  Screen-used models also have fetched a hefty sum, including the filming miniature model of the Rebel Blockade Runner spaceship from the opening scene of the original Star Wars that sold for $465,000, and a miniature filming model of a TIE Fighter that sold for more than $400,000.

Another Han Solo blaster, a prop weapon that fired blanks unlike the Julien’s prop but was also from Return of the Jedi, sold as part of the Stembridge Armory Collection back in 2007 for $201,600.  The Julien’s blaster had the distinction of being owned by Return of the Jedi art director James Schoppe, the kind of provenance high-end collectors flock toward.  Another Luke Skywalker lightsaber, from the original Star Wars, authenticated by producer Gary Kurtz, sold in 2005 at Profiles in History for $200,600.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As you will no doubt hear as moviegoers walk out of theaters this holiday season, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a very “different” Star Wars movie.  That said, despite writer/director Rian Johnson’s assertions to the contrary, it is very much an echo of the second film of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, with several parallel elements you’ll encounter along the way.  Picking up where director J.J. Abrams left off two years ago in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Johnson seems to take the bits and pieces of questions raised in Abrams’ film, answers a few, dismisses a few, and ignores the rest, perhaps for Abrams to pick them up again as he re-takes the reins in two years for the final film in the Skywalker family saga.  So many questions seem to have been definitively tied up by the end of The Last Jedi, moviegoers are now left to ponder for the next two years, “What could Episode IX possibly be about?”

The Last Jedi is most intriguing when it emulates some of the surprises and emotional impact of last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–a bold, unique film that falls outside the three trilogies of franchise films, but provided a fantastically gritty, nostalgic, and heart-pounding story that put the “war” back in Star Wars.  An opening scene in The Last Jedi featuring the heroic death of a new character made me sit up thinking another gritty war movie was coming (only swap a guerilla land war for World War II-inspired bombing runs).  Heroism is the theme of The Last Jedi, and every character gets a chance to be a hero, but the damage is not as gut-wrenching as Rogue One.  Yet, depending on who your favorite character was in The Force Awakens, every fan should find something in The Last Jedi to be happy about.  Even if it might not offer up the excitement of the original trilogy, the third of the new annual holiday Star Wars adventures will be a great excuse to get together with family and friends for the event itself–annual Star Wars movies are becoming what the annual Christmas Special has become for Doctor Who fans, an event that for many will be bigger than whatever you think of the film.

The actors are top-notch in The Last Jedi, including Carrie Fisher in her final performance as General Leia Organa, although Hamill’s work stands out and could easily merit an Oscar nomination.  Alec Guinness’s genius as the similar Jedi wizard Obi-Wan Kenobi of the original Star Wars was in his reserved performance and iconic utterances of wisdom.  Here Hamill shows that Hollywood has missed the boat for 40 years by not featuring him regularly in mainstream films, bringing a powerful and emotional performance from beginning to end.  And gone are the days of Star Wars’ clunky dialogue–Johnson’s success is pulling out the stilted exchanges Star Wars had began to become known for.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In her debut in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma was an enigma, the latest of the uniquely costumed bad guys in the Star Wars universe, following in a line that progressed from Darth Maul to General Grievous, Count Dooku, and Darth Vader in the prequels, and later into Director Krennic and Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, and Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels.  In Delilah S. Dawson’s new novel, Star Wars: Phasma, Phasma finally gets the spotlight.  Readers learn about her backstory through an interrogation of a Resistance spy working for General Leia Organa, by yet another aspiring Imperial/First Order warrior, Captain Cardinal.

The spy, Vi Moradi, is pressed to provide Cardinal with damning information to help him bring down Phasma with the current leader, General Armitage Hux, son of General Brendol Hux, the leader who ushered both Cardinal and Phasma from their primitive worlds to train the future warriors of the First Order.  Dawson tells this story as a play on A Thousand and One Nights, where the reader is compelled to wonder whether the information is true or that the end will be of the Keyser Söze variety.  Moradi reveals a story of Phasma’s rise to power among a tribe on the planet Parnassos, and her discovery by Brendol Hux when his ship crashes on the planet and his emergency escape pod leaves him and his Stormtroopers far from the wreckage and any chance to communicate back to the First Order for assistance.

Phasma’s story will be most familiar to readers of the Star Wars universe novel Thrawn (reviewed here earlier at borg.com).  Both Phasma and Thrawn literally battled their way to the top.  Those familiar with the third trilogy novels will find an interesting parallel in the selection of the stories released leading up to the new canon films, including Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel centered on the feud between Krennic, Tarkin, and Galen Erso, and Tarkin, introducing readers to Tarkin’s confrontations with Darth Vader.  Star Wars: Phasma has much in common with the Star Wars Rebels prequel novel A New Dawn, and indeed Vi Moradi would fit in well with the crew of the Ghost.  Dawson pits Cardinal against Phasma like the Emperor pitted Anakin Skywalker against Grievous and Dooku, continuing some consistency from earlier Star Wars stories.

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Following up on last year’s successful Black Series Imperial Stormtrooper Electronic Voice Changer Helmet from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the Black Series Kylo Ren Voice Changer Helmet from Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the new September release of the Black Series Poe Dameron Electronic Helmet.  A screen accurate helmet at a price point of about $80?  That’s an amazing find.  Even a dedicated fan with skills could hardly build a replica helmet for so little.  The Black Series Poe Dameron Electronic Helmet hit stores across the country–as well as internationally–Friday as part of Disney’s unprecedented Force Friday II marketing push.  And we thought Disney came up with an enormous volume of tie-ins for the first Force Friday!  This helmet emerges as a leading contender in a field of some impressive action figures, household items, games, and toys.

A replica of Oscar Isaac’s X-Wing pilot helmet from the current trilogy era of the Star Wars universe features a surround sound speaker system that produces for the wearer clear and clean X-Wing and TIE fighter communication sounds, plus familiar beeps from Dameron’s trusty droid sidekick BB-8.  What hasn’t been touted–but should be–is the care given to the interior, which rivals even studio built props in design and comfort, featuring quality-designed ear muffs and soft finished edges.  Ultimately the new helmet may be a strong competitor with Anovos’s high-end $200-$665 range replica helmet series (both series are licensed replicas, with Anovos’s typically cornering the higher end of the market quality and price-wise).  Is it screen-accurate?  It’s close, and those wanting to go further could make upgrades on their own.  Is it collector grade?  Sure, and it displays quite well.

Details include scuff/wear built into its design.  At three pounds it’s built sturdy, but light enough to remain comfortable, making it a good option for cosplayers.  A retractable polarizing visor provides a classic nostalgic feel and the adjustable inner helmet padding further helps the wearer feel right at home.  All you need is a flight suit (and maybe an X-Wing fighter).

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It’s been nearly five years since we first reviewed the award-winning, low-budget sci-fi alien invasion flick Attack the Block.  Now that Jodie Whittaker is in the spotlight for her selection as the next Doctor in the BBC’s Doctor Who, and John Boyega will be returning this December for his second stint as Imperial turned Resistance fighter Finn in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, let’s look back to them working together as co-leads in writer/director Joe Cornish’s modern cult classic.  Attack the Block should be in every sci-fi fan’s arsenal.  When we first reviewed Attack the Block here at borg.com, we compared it to another low-budget British sci-fi/horror mash-up, 1985’s Lifeforce (which co-starred a then less-known Patrick Stewart).  After repeat viewings since then, it’s clear Attack the Block is a much better film, full of action, suspense, humor, and good acting by young actors who all feel very real on-screen.  In 2011 only fans of the actors from the Cornetto films would have noticed it, because of the slightly larger than cameo performance by Nick Frost, one-half of the Simon Pegg/Frost comic duo (Shaun of the Dead, The Fuzz, Spaced, Paul).  Attack the Block was an unknown commodity that didn’t get much reaction at the U.S. box office in 2011 because it was not marketed well and it was not a typical, Hollywood-made sci-fi epic.  It was before its time–it’s Stranger Things, UK style.  It’s Judgment Night and John Carpenter’s original Attack on Precinct 13 meets E.T., if E.T. didn’t have good intentions and Elliot wasn’t a nice little kid.

It takes a bit to warm up to the main cast of Attack the Block.  We follow a teen gang of British kids in masks led by John Boyega’s character Moses as they unabashedly and violently mug a nurse named Sam, played by Jodie Whittaker.  From the beginning Whittaker’s Sam really is the only person in the film we are completely sympathetic toward, despite efforts of the writer to get viewers to understand this gang of kids.  We almost get to the point of sympathy for the others once Sam decides she may very well be killed by aliens if she does not join up with the gang, and this film takes a swing at answering the question: “Under what situation would a victim, however reluctantly, join up with her attacker?”  Violent alien beast invasion, of course!  Despite playing the thug, Boyega had charisma even early on and it’s understandable why he has his own band of followers.  He gets in over his head dealing with a slightly older drug kingpin who “owns the block” and takes the kid under his wing for a drug sale.  His followers are a motley sort. Along with a pair of much younger kids that add some comic relief, and an additional wandering, stoned teenager, they must come together to fight the gang leader and worse—the onslaught of big hairy aliens.

The scarf of a future Doctor!  Jodie Whittaker in Attack the Block.

Six years later, Attack the Block easily holds its own.  For alien invasion film fans, it offers one of the best aliens of any 21st century production–big or low budget—giant dark, furry beasts built like hybrid gorilla/buffalos, with phosphorescent blue fangs, able to leap and spring and climb buildings.  We don’t ever see clear views of these creatures, and that mystery and an overall lack of gore throughout the movie helps form the mystique of these creatures–think the uncertainty of when the shark appears next in Jaws–and it makes them just plain scary as they chase their targets down hallways and up buildings.  They aren’t hive-minded aliens from Alien or conniving predators as in Predator, but they don’t need to be.

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The Comic-Con, cosplay, sci-fi, fantasy, film and television world–and we at borg.com–are mourning the loss today of Carrie Fisher, who passed away at age 60.  For a generation she portrayed the most important heroine we encountered in the Land of Make-Believe because of a phenomenon called Star Wars.

Fortunately for her fans, she was able to bring her Princess Leia, now a General, to a new generation with last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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We’ll look forward to her once again portraying the strong-willed leader once more in Star Wars: Episode VIII, which she had completed filming, next December.

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Today we thank this fine actress for all the great hours we got to spend with her as the most iconic heroine in science fiction, for the individual influence she had on each of us, and for giving us a character that was a role model and force for positivism for so many.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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What a year!  The world’s a changing place and no less so than with the welcome onslaught of new movies, television shows, books, comics, and everything else that entertained us in 2016.  All year long we tried to keep up with the best of what Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre content we thought was worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.  We watched all of nearly two dozen TV series, and enough of others to know we’d seen enough.  We watched dozens of new movies, reviewed more than three dozen books (and read even more), and kept up with dozens of comic book titles.  We witnessed the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Archie, and Captain America, the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and Charles Schulz’s Great Pumpkin, Rocky turned 40, and it was the 30th anniversary of Aliens and Labyrinth.  And the Cubs finally won the World Series.

Today we reveal the best genre content of 2016–with our top categories from movies and television Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero Fix, Best Animated Fix, and Best Borg, followed by our Best in Movies picks.  The big winner was Rogue One, taking 13 spots, followed by Doctor Strange with three.  Come back later this week for our TV and print media picks, our special look at Kick-ass Heroines of 2016, followed by our annual borg.com Hall of Fame inductees.

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Best Sci-Fi Fix – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm).  Although the franchise is more space fantasy than science fiction, all the elements of the best sci-fi were crammed into Rogue One.  Epic space battles, aliens, and loads of sci-fi technology.  A compelling story.  We’re wagering this film will be a classic we go back to for years to come, upsetting Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the third best of the eight films in the series.  It’s everything a sci-fi fan could want.

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Best Fantasy FixThe Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal Pictures).  Like Rogue One it was a prequel that was also a sequel.  Better than the original Snow White and the Huntsman, this early 2016 release provided a high-fantasy story rooted in the classic fairy tale, rewarding viewers midway with a surprise change-up.  Three tough female leads, four brave (and funny) dwarves, two epic quests, a fairy tale romance, and elaborate costumes and sets made for a perfect fantasy film.

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Best Superhero FixThe Magnificent Seven (MGM/Columbia Pictures).  When we first reviewed The Magnificent Seven we were surprised it had adapted the Yul Brynner version and Akira Kurosawa’s earlier Seven Samurai so well.  We were even more surprised at how well the cast, and cast of characters, worked together to create a true ensemble piece.  It rivaled every attempt by the studios to make a great superhero team-up, and, but for the Western garb and setting, it rates as the year’s best of the superhero genre.  Runner-up, a close contender for the win was the second appearance of Evan Peters as Quicksilver doing his speedster business slow-motion style again in X-Men: Apocalypse.

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Best Retro FixStranger Things (Netflix).  It’s a TV series that would have made a solid movie hit in 1982.  So many series appear unexpectedly these days with a full season ready to stream immediately.  Most demonstrate why they couldn’t cut it with the networks or a major cable channel.  Not so with some of Netflix’s series, especially the surprise hit Stranger Things.  With a nicely eerie soundtrack, title font, a Twin Peaks-meets Steven Spielberg coming of age film cul-de-sac for the setting, and  John Carpenter meets Stephen King vibe, it’s no wonder Stranger Things was the #1 talked about series this year.  Our favorite part, besides the young heroine of the show, was the attention to throwback clothes, toys, posters, and 1980s pop culture references.  It’s a series we’ll revisit in the future, and look forward to in its second season.

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Best Borg/Best Movie Villain – Darth Vader (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).  Darth Vader returned in his best scene of the franchise outside of The Empire Strikes Back in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  It wasn’t James Earl Jones’s return to voice one of the best villains in the history of cinema that grabbed us, but the full-on rampage Vader takes to pursue the stolen Rebel plans in the film’s finale.  Director (and lifelong Star Wars fan) Gareth Edwards gave fans exactly what they wanted, utilizing an impressive UK creature actor Spencer Wilding to do his bidding as the imposing Lord of the Sith.  We also got a peek at what little of the man remained years after his battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi.  We saw inside his cybernetic suit of armor via a scene featuring him floating in a bacta tank.  Darth Vader remains one of the greatest borgs of all time.

Want to know who we picked for best in effects, soundtrack, and best sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, and horror movies of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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If you haven’t seen the Sideshow Collectibles line-up of premium 1:6 scale figures, then the below gallery is for you.  In the past twelve months Sideshow Collectibles and its Hot Toys brand has released some of the best sculpted figures we’ve ever seen for the Star Wars franchise, beginning with a superb line of Star Wars: The Force Awakens figures.  In the past month we’ve seen even more great figures previewed for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

These movie-accurate collectible figures are specially crafted for the new films, featuring new body designs and armor, highly polished helmets and accessories, sophisticated tailoring of costumes with detailed textures, premium accessories like utility belts with LED lights, lightsaber hilts, character-specific weaponry and poseable add-on hands, and themed figure stands.  And the human figures reflect the actors’ likenesses quite well.

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These previews are a great way to get a first look at the varieties of Stormtroopers coming soon in Rogue One.  Rogue One takes place just before the original Star Wars, so it’s interesting Disney/Lucasfilm included so many new Stormtrooper designs.  Does it add to the film (Star Wars has always been about new, out-of-this-world characters) or is it because fans are going to be wanting to collect them all?

It doesn’t matter because they turned out great.  We’ll see updated Stormtroopers and TIE Fighter Pilots, plus the new Shoretroopers and Death Troopers.  Check out all these figures from Rogue One and The Force Awakens:

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